Heather's Story

After ending a four year relationship at the age of 28, I moved to a university town a few hundred miles away. Earlier, I had moved to the west coast with my old boyfriend, and had hopes that we would get married. Although my love for my ex-boyfriend remained, my hurt was temporarily fulfilled by a guy I meet the first few weeks back in school. It was a classic "rebound relationship," and he was thrilling to be with, albeit most of our good times were spent drinking at the bars. We were casually dating and "messing around" for about two months when I became pregnant. Amazingly, we hadn't even had intercourse yet! I was in disbelief that sperm at or near the outside of my vagina had somehow made its way inside me.

The choice to make was clear to me immediately - to have an abortion. My first thought at the clinic when they gave me the positive results was why couldn't it have with my old-boyfriend. It was my fault for entering in a new relationship so soon and for that reason, I felt there was no other option. Both my heart and mind were one, I just couldn't have this baby. Nothing seemed right in this new relationship. I felt trapped, scared and even at the age of 28, knew I wasn't ready to have a baby at such a transitional time in my life. Other than my ex-boyfriend, had no close ties in the state. I knew if I were to continue this pregnancy, my instinct would be to move back to the Midwest close to my parents and longtime friends.

I walked around in a daze for weeks without any love or attachment to what was growing inside me. I put off telling him for the first two weeks in order to resolve my own feelings. I was so angry with myself. I definitely wanted to have children some day, but I had hoped marriage would at least come first. I had a lot of guilt about even thinking of moving back to my family because his 2-year-old daughter from a previous marriage lived halfway across the world. However, he wasn't paying child support either, and I feared that I would fare the same fate if we decided not to stay together. I also became increasingly aware that his drinking problem was more than an occasional social event. I felt foolish that I had even let myself get pregnant. Even though I was older, I felt like a teenager who had just been "knocked up." I couldn't tell my parents that I was having a baby with a man I barely knew. I hadn't even the opportunity to really get to know him due to his drinking problem, let alone love him.

The most confusing part of my decision happened the night before my abortion. After drinking at the bars he called me and confessed he was against the abortion and felt we should keep the baby. I hadn't realized his feelings were so strong for this unborn child. He was also resentful that I had only given him one week to absorb the news - as I had known for two weeks before telling him. After talking on the phone for two and a half hours that night, I went to the clinic by myself the next the morning, talked with a counselor and then postponed the abortion one week. I felt it was fair to hear him out, and give him additional time to deal with the loss he was feeling. It also gave me the opportunity to look for any signs that might change my decision.

I voiced my expectations to him if we were to keep it - for us to move in together and perhaps get married, and for him to quit drinking and get a part-time job until he graduated. All of his responses were to the contrary. He felt we should remain living in our separate apartments until he graduated (which was one month before the baby would have been due.) He also didn't believe in marriage because of the failure of his first one. Furthermore, he was generally unwilling to get a job until he graduated, and at that time didn't have any future job prospects. I held no anger at all, as I wasn't out to change him, but I sought only to understand how our expectations were different. He was a dreamer, a surfer, a lover, and communicated his feelings with honestly and love from his heart. However, I was a realist and my feelings remained steadfast that neither of us were ready for either a life long commitment (at least for the next 18 years) or the shared financial responsibility of a child. As a final offering, he asked that I have the baby and let him raise it while he and I could just be friends. All of this only further confirmed my decision. How could I throw my life away, and the opportunity for my child to have both a mother and father who loved each other for the chance "everything would just work out."

I asked two friends to go to the clinic with me for my abortion. It went well, and I left that day with a feeling of lightness and rebirth. I had my life back. My future was to be mine.

However, my grieving began within days. The night after my abortion, his roommate received a DUI and immediately moved out. He now needed a new roommate - the person I had hoped to be. With his "drinking buddy" now gone, we began developing a strong bond over the loss of the baby. For the first time I was uncovering who he really was - and felt so much sadness for it was too late. I mourned my loss through increased feelings for him. I went into a dreamlike state about the life we could have had as a family. I carried an invisible expanding belly around with me each day for about two months and found myself thinking often of the child we could have had. I spent many night crying and he was always there for me.

With the help of counseling, I understood that these feelings were common for many women after abortions - the feeling of an energy or presence around one's belly, and to direct new energy into the relationship. My therapist suggested that at the right time I have a conversation with the spirit and gently ask it to leave, for I must get back to my life.

It has now been six-months since the abortion, and I'm finally feeling closure from my experience. I have resolved once again that I made the right decision. We are still together, he's managed to curb his drinking to a minimum, and has a job lined up working with his father. He'll be moving in about six weeks to his hometown quite a ways away. Now, I grieve the loss of him for he has become an important person in my life.

For me, it's been a catch-22. I know my relationship with him wouldn't have developed in such the positive direction if it weren't for the abortion. Despite our conflicting ideas on what to do, I was fortunate in that we worked together as a team through communication and mutual support. I suppose I might be moving with him after graduation if we were having the baby, however, I don't think our relationship could have withstood the stresses of the pregnancy. As well, I would have always wondered if we were together out of love or only for the child.

Ultimately, my decision was based on the fact that I was simply not ready to assume the responsibility of bringing another person into the world. Both instincts and intuition were the two most important tools I had in making my decision, and I know I made the best choice for me and the child who may someday return in my life.

5 April 2001

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A national study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that overall poverty rates decreased from 1990 to 1997, but that the number of children living in extreme poverty has not changed. Around one in five American children is poor, and one in seven, approximately 9.2 million, is in "serious distress," according to the report. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a family of four earning less than $16,530 is living in poverty.